'I'm a Reader'

Thank you, Shailene Woodley, for insulting all TV viewers and creating a moment of national unity that has eluded our national leaders.

Appearing on the red carpet of last month’s Emmys, Woodley announced that she hasn’t owned a TV since she moved out of her parents’ house when she was 18, and thus couldn’t watch any of the nominated shows.

But even if she did own a TV, Woodley implied, she wouldn’t have watched the nominated shows anyway, because she’s too busy pursuing more intellectual pursuits: “I always ask [friends who watch TV] — when do they have time to? When do people have time to? I'm a reader, so I always read a book instead of checking out my TV."

The reaction was swift and unified, setting off a Twitterstorm that boiled down to:  How could someone who was richly compensated for being on a TV series (“Big Little Lies”), and then nominated for said performance, appear on a TV awards show to insult everyone tuned in on the very household appliance she found so time-wasting?  If TV is such a brain-suck, why didn’t she just stay home that night and read Tolstoy?  



Apparently one of the books she WASN’T reading was “Miss Manners' Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior.”

We can all laugh at the cluelessness of young actresses, but who among us hasn’t encountered that same anti-TV attitude at a cocktail party or around the office water cooler?

Is it really possible that these people missed the memo that the most important work in the visual arts is being done on TV? I mean, isn’t that why Woodley, Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon and Laura Dern were all in “Big Little Lies” in the first place: because TV is now the place where actors can really stretch?

I don’t know if Woodley thinks she’s special because she doesn’t own a TV, but she’s actually a conformist in her demographic. Of course she doesn’t have a TV! She’s 25 years old. I’d be more impressed by her originality if she didn’t have a smartphone.  In fact, what I’d really like to know is the proportion of time she spends reading vs. looking at a smartphone.  The iPhone, not the television, is what rots brains these days.

The anti-TV snobs like Woodley have always been with us. In certain decades there was some justification for that attitude.  But what’s new these days are people who watch TV but actively disdain legitimately good shows: the anti-snobbery snobs.  I guess they think that viewers of “peak TV” are looking down on them, so they get preemptively defensive, as in, “I watched 15 minutes of ‘Mad Men’ and thought it was boring.  I can’t understand why you like it.”

Somewhat related to the anti-snobbery snobs are the anti-popularity snobs: those who brag that they never watch the highest-rated shows.  A few weeks ago, some of us in the office were discussing “Game of Thrones” when our CFO — who was not part of the conversation by the way — felt it necessary to interject that he’d never watched it.  Now there are many legitimate reasons not to watch “Game of Thrones,” but he definitely left the impression that the fact that so many others were watching was a factor in his avoidance of it.

Of course he then undercut himself by then telling us that our highly regarded outside counsel had recently admitted that he was a “Game of Thrones” fan and that because this well-known lawyer was watching the show, well, maybe he’d check it out too.  Which prompted the rest of us to observe that when WE said we were watching “Game of Thrones,” he wasn’t interested — but when the lawyer said he was watching, our CFO was now willing to give it a try.

The bottom line is that people today are too quick to define themselves by what they don’t like on TV.  Maybe it’s time we all just stopped judging each other for our TV choices.  Instead of airily dismissing what someone else watches, maybe you could ask why they like that particular show or genre.  We might learn something about each other, for once.

2 comments about "'I'm a Reader'".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics, October 10, 2017 at 9 a.m.

    I wonder if it is true that she never watches TV in the first place?

  2. John Grono from GAP Research replied, October 11, 2017 at 9:09 a.m.

    Very true Ed.   When I first started in TV research almost 30 years ago the first two lessons I learned were:

    * Never believe someone who says "I never watch TV".
    * Never believe someone who says "I only watch (insert channel name here)"

    These are the two 'Unicorn' cohorts.

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